YouTube Signs Activision Blizzard’s Major eSports Leagues

Google’s YouTube will exclusively stream Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, and Hearthstone Esports, which had previously been on the Twitch streaming platform. The news came just before the Call of Duty League’s inaugural match. In 2018, Twitch inked exclusive Overwatch League streaming rights for a reported $90 million. Additionally, Google Cloud will host Activision Blizzard’s library of games. YouTube Gaming head Ryan Wyatt reported that talks over the rights had been ongoing since last year.

Wired reports that, “while Wyatt declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, he does say he doesn’t believe the transition to YouTube will impact the leagues’ viewership.” Wyatt also pointed to “the success of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship on YouTube, where … the platform had more peak concurrent viewers than anywhere else” and added that “Call of Duty has always been hugely successful on the platform.”

“We have 200 million logged-in users watching gaming content every single day on YouTube,” he said. StreamElements chief executive Doron Nir noted that, “since most of VOD happens on YouTube already, I expect the move to YouTube for live viewership will have no negative impact on the views.” “If YouTube promotes it properly, it might even get more viewership,” Nir added.

The news caught Call of Duty Twitch participants by surprise, with “several express[ing] shock and confusion.” Wired notes that, “one widespread complaint — on top of having to navigate to another website — about YouTube’s streaming platform is that it’s not as developed as Twitch’s, especially as pertains to chat … [as well as the fact that] Twitch also offered in-game skins and prizes for eSports fans who integrated their online game presences with their Twitch accounts.”

Wyatt reported that it’s “very much on our roadmap” to offer rewards for Call of Duty and Overwatch League viewers.

This is just “the latest in a series of high-profile YouTube gaming poaches,” says Wired, pointing to “Twitch mainstays like Jack ‘CouRage’ Dunlop, who boasted an average of more than 9,000 live viewers per stream.” YouTube also recently signed exclusive deals with star gamers Rachell ‘Valkyrae’ Hofstetter, Elliott ‘Muselk’ Watkins, and Lannan ‘LazarBeam’ Eacott.

StreamAnalytics reports that, “currently, YouTube’s live gaming platform accounts for about 28 percent of livestreamed hours, to Twitch’s 61 percent.”

“It’s our mission to deliver high-quality competitive entertainment that our fans can follow globally, live or on-demand, and to celebrate our players as the superstars that they are,” stated Activision Blizzard Esports chief executive Pete Vlastelica. “This partnership will help us deliver on that promise at new levels.”